CXO blog series: The future of technology – Karl Hoods, CIO, Save the Children UK

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Everything is an opportunity. As long as you have an openness to change and desire to adapt then it is a great time to be involved in technology as a whole

Karl Hoods is Chief Information Officer at Save the Children UK, a non-governmental organisation that promotes children's rights, provides relief and helps support children in developing countries. Karl has successfully led and transformed technology and digital functions in a number of high profile and challenging environments, giving him a unique perspective on the future of technology in the industry. In our second blog with Karl, we sat down to discuss the future of technology and what this means for new tech talent…

During your 20-year career, do you recall a time when technology was completely transformational?

In the early days of my career – working on publishing systems for large publishing houses – I was part of the dot-com boom. We were pushing the boundaries of what people were doing with the internet and websites in the late 90s and early 2000s in much the same way a technology like Blockchain is now. When I first started working in tech, media was called hyper media, then new media and now it is digital. This shift has been quite transformational and has given IT professionals the opportunity to really change what we were doing in delivering services.

Are there three words that sum up your career journey to date?

Challenging, exciting and relentless. We have moved into a world where things change daily, but this gives us exciting new challenges in the work we can do with technology.

What advice would you give to graduates looking to work in technology in the future?

I am involved with a pair of governors at a local secondary school and sit on the main board of the federation of schools. When you talk to students there about technology they are very clear about some of the things they want to do – with a mixture of technology and business degrees or pure computer science degrees - but they do not receive an adequate awareness of what goes on in an organisation. I think anyone who is graduating or has a placement year should try to get the most exposure possible to different areas of technology and use this time to find what they enjoy the most.

Is there a sector that you think more people should go into – do you think there should be a focus on Agile?

I think it is less about pure technical skills and more about the mindset. I was over in Australia recently talking at an event and their degrees are moving to include micro-credentials. This means that rather than just teaching the core elements of a degree – which might be programming or project technologies – they look at critical thinking and problem solving. They reward students for that and give them something to show employers; ‘I know how to code, but I also have some problem solving, critical thinking skills’. This is what is important to me – a proactive attitude and mindset.

Do you think your career journey will be different to what young people will experience today?

Everything is an opportunity. As long as you have an openness to change and desire to adapt then it is a great time to be involved in technology as a whole. The rate of change is phenomenal and cuts across each sector. There are lots of inter-dependencies between different sectors as well – look at banking and open APIs which are constantly bringing in new options. When I first started out it took years for technology to be adopted fully and it still does to some degree today. Contactless payment, for example, has been around for years and yet we are only recently seeing massive growth in that area. There is still a change curve but the ability to get involved and make a difference is there, so it is a very interesting and exciting time.

How much has technology changed since you started working? Are there any technologies that you did not expect would become a reality?

With the consumerisation of technology, expectations have changed. Decades ago there was a different dynamic between an employee and what is expected in the workplace. Society has also changed and adapted to technology – children are a great example, even my daughter uses voice commands with her phone. How are applications learned early on going to shift and change in the future for the next generation of employees coming in?

Should organisations be approaching what they do with HR and what they do with talent management in the age-old way, or do we need to think about that slightly differently? This is the advantage of bringing in the next generation of young people, to gain from their experience and learn from it.

It takes a long time for a university degree to change, but it still gives a basic understanding. What the Sparta academy model does is supplement that degree with the skills that are in demand.